UN’s Syria Inspection Led By NATO Shill

Yoichi Shimatsu

Instead of a non-politicized investigation and lab analysis, the UN investigation of alleged nerve-gas attacks inside Syria was led by Professor Ake Sellstrom, a man of mystery who keeps a veil of secrecy around his research and political-military relationships.

Sellstrom’s report on Syria for the UN and his prior inspections record in Iraq are dubious, to say the least. In the eyes of laymen, his seeming objectivity and non-partisanship is based on the myth of Sweden’s neutrality. The public assumes – wrongly- that Sweden never takes sides in wars or geopolitical conflicts.

Fraud of Neutrality

This cosmetic veneer of Swedish neutrality has been deftly exploited by Israel and NATO to perpetrate falsehoods throughout Sellstrom’s work for the UN, including denial of the chemical-and-biological causes for “Gulf War Syndrome” and the shipments of U.S. chemical weapons to the Saddam Hussein regime.

The Hans Blix-Ake Sellstrom inspection teams in Iraq did not investigate the special-weapons bunkers that were bombed by American warplanes in the U.S. invasion.

Sellstrom also never made any attempt to probe the U.S.-produced 20-foot-long cannisters of VX nerve gas discovered at Balad Air Base by American National Guardsmen. His mission was not to prove Iraqi guilt but to get Washington off the hook for supplying tons of nerve gas to Baghdad. Saving U.S. officials like Donald Rumsfeld from disgrace and treason charges is far more important to imperial power that disclosing any facts in a theater of war.

The salient critique of the UN inspections in Iraq was made by American inspector Scott Ritter who accused the team of spying for Washington and NATO. The same question hangs over Sellstrom’s report on Syria. Is Sellstrom acting on behalf of Washington and Tel Aviv?

NATO Front Man

What is publicly known about Sellstrom is that the biochemist heads the European CBRNE Center [Center for advanced Studies of Societal Security and Vulnerability, in particular major incidents with (C)hemical, (B)iological, (R)adiological, (N)uclear and (E)xplosive substances], at Umea University in northern Sweden, which is sponsored by the Swedish Defense Ministry (FOI). Though not a NATO member, the Swedish military and police have a leading role in European security affairs as drafters of the repressive 2009 EU action plan based on the Stockholm Counterterrorism Programme.

Major funding for the CBRNE multidisciplinary research projects at Umea comes from the EU budget for the war on terrorism. These projects include: defense strategy for large-scale terrorist attacks (notice the term “relatively large scale” in his just-released Syria report); recommendations for EU medical emergency responses; and specialized training at Umea for experts, including military officers attached to NATO.

Sweden’s military-industrial complex, which includes Saab and Bofors, is anything but peace-loving and neutral. The kingdom’s cloak of neutrality is most useful for Israeli interests, which have exploited Scandinavia’s clean image to skew international policy against the Palestinians and Arab states, as demonstrated in the half-baked Oslo Accords.

Israeli Infiltration of Scandinavia

Umea University is deeply involved in joint research with Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), the Haifa-based university that provides state-of-art technology to the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and its intelligence agencies. Several departments, which are involved in joint Israeli research, participate in multidisciplinary studies at Sellstrom’s CBRNE center. These include: the computer department, which has cooperated with Technion on control systems since 2004; the medical faculty; and chemistry, his own field of studies.

The Israeli-Swedish research cooperation is fostered by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which provides scholarships and awards to bind together the industries and universities of the two countries. This year the State of Israeli is sponsoring the Start Tel Aviv program for expanded cultural ties, in its relentless campaign to subvert Scandinavia. The political agenda and military links behind the bilateral cooperation has prompted an anti-Israel boycott by conscientious Swedish academics.

No Credibility on Syria

The term “relatively large scale” chemical-weapons attack used in the introduction to the UN report on Syria is hyperbole, since any major attack with sarin would have resulted in tens of thousands of fatalities, especially if dispersed by military rockets. The first videos from Ghouta showed residents pouring out of their homes onto the street, gasping for fresh air. If indeed highly efficient rockets had been used, every one of them would have been killed instantaneous. The gassing, therefore, must have been an accidental release indoors, probably from a hidden rebel arsenal.

Chemical residues from the alleged rockets would have been oxidized by the heat of impact and certainly no intact organophosphate traces would be detectable, since sarin is designed to decompose after 20 minutes. Rockets are designed to use a binary system by which two chemical precursors are mixed during mid-air dispersal. Thus, there is no need for stabilizers or dispersants, meaning an absence of any identifying chemicals. The UN inspectors arrived long after the expiration period for sample testing. There is a possiblity also that the site and rocket parts may have been tampered with falsified evidence by the rebels and their foreign military advisers.

The casualty figures are unverifiable, and certainly not any of the videos showed more than a dozen corpses at a time. The scenes of swaddled infants is typical of war propaganda, certainly not believable when only a few faces were visible. The sum effect of these images is closer to theater than credible reporting.

Sellstrom’s strategy is to point fingers of guilt at the Syrian regime, while avoiding all possibility of alternative and more probable scenarios.

Hidden Agenda

American ambassador to the UN Samantha Power made emphatically clear that the “nerve gas used in Syria was more concentrated than the nerve gas in Iraqi.” Her statement should be rephrased as: “Saddam may have trans-shipped U.S.-supplied nerve gas into Syria, but it wasn’t our nerve gas used against Syrian civilians.”

That is the essential point of the Sellstrom report: To take Washington off the hook for being the major supplier of nerve gas precursors, formulations, delivery technology and storage systems to the Middle East, incluing Israel, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and very possibly Syria (during the Clinton era of good will).

The UN report of chemical weapons on Syria lacks basic credibility due to the duplicitous record of its chief inspector, Ake Sellstrom, who is politically and financially compromised at every level. An impartial fact-finding mission of credible international experts is required, but it would have no chance of conducting a fair investigation so long as Washington provides weapons and political support to the insurgency, including its Al Qaeda faction.

The geopolitical objective underlying the White House orchestrated hystrionics over Syria is to strip Damascus of its limited deterrence capability against Israel’s nuclear forces. Nerve gas may not be much of a counter-strike response compared with atomic warheads, but it seems Israel’s goal is absolute strategic supremacy against the Arab states and Iran. With the new UN report on Syria, Tel Aviv is a giant step closer to the dream of rendering all its neighbors defenseless and divided.

Yoichi Shimatsu, a science journalist based in Hong Kong, led a team of investigative reporters for the Japan Times Weekly and served as consultant to Takarajima 30 magazine during the Tokyo subway gassing in 1995.

Workers: Stand with Syria!

New Worker

Syrians are bracing themselves for a massive missile strike following the blatant and illegal threats of intervention in the civil war coming from Washington, London and Paris following ludicrous claims that the Syrian government was responsible for the poison gas attack that killed over 300 civilians and wounded 1,000 more last week.

The Arab League, which has expelled Syria and is now totally dominated by the Saudis and the other oil monarchies, has held the Syrian government “fully responsible” for the deadly chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus. But Algeria and Lebanon refused to support it, Iraq says it will opposes the use of its airspace or territory in any attack on Syria, and the new military- led “interim” government of Egypt is also opposing military intervention in Syria, insisting that the only way forward is a political solution in the war-torn country.

Syria can count on the support of Iran and the progressive Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements and while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear that “we are not going to war with anyone,” on Monday, the Kremlin is mobilising international support to try to stop an attack on its long-standing Arab ally.

Syria says it will defend itself by all available means if Nato attacks. Syrian foreign minister Walid al Moallem said: “We have two options: either to surrender or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves.” He called US allegations that his government has used chemical weapons “categorically baseless” and compared them to the charges levied against Iraq before the 2003 war. “They have a history of lies,” he said.

The British government is calling on the UN Security Council to sanction “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from chemical weapons in Syria. The British move, clearly drafted in Washington, will be cheered on by imperialism’s feudal Arab lackeys. But it will undoubtedly be vetoed by Russia and China who believe they were double-crossed over the Libyan UN resolution that led to open Nato support for the rebellion that toppled the Gaddafi government in 2011.

Since then Moscow and Beijing have blocked every imperialist attempt to use the UN as a cover for their neo-colonialist plan to enslave the Arabs for the benefit of the big oil corporations. And this week Russia and China stepped up their warnings against a Nato attack on Syria, with Moscow saying any such action would have “catastrophic consequences” for the Middle East.

“Attempts to bypass the Security Council” a Russian Foreign Ministry spokespersons said, “once again create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region already fraught with new suffering in Syria,” which would lead to “catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa”.

The Assad government has denied using poison gas and it is co-operating fully with the UN team already investigating chemical weapons claims in the country. Many believe that the incident was an operation carried out by agents of imperialism precisely to provide the pretext for open Nato support for the rebels they have been less than covertly arming and funding for the past two years.

Four American warships are on stand-by in the eastern Mediterranean, each carrying 90 cruise missiles, ready to rain death and destruction on the Syrian people when the word is given. French and British naval forces are also manoeuvring into position for a co-ordinated strike that could happen within the next few days.

Russian communist leader Gennady Zyuganov is calling for greater Russian solidarity with Syria: “Now we can and we must protect. We must help, support and protect Syria; we must constantly keep it in mind that we will be next after Syria,” he declared. And communist and workers’ parties, including the New Communist Party, signed an appeal this week which said:

“We express our solidarity with the Syrian people and denounce the military attack against Syria which is being prepared by the imperialists of the USA, Nato and the European Union together with their allies in order to promote their interests in the region.

“We reject the pretexts of the imperialists which, as was demonstrated, were also used in the war against Iraq and in the other imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya.

“We call on the working class, the peoples all over the world to oppose and condemn the new imperialist war, to demand that the governments of their countries have no involvement in and do not support the criminal military offensive.”

Hands Off Syria! Take Action Against U.S. Intervention!

This Call to Action was originally posted by the ANSWER Coalition.

Washington is on the march toward yet another war of aggression in the Middle East, this time targeting Syria. In the event of U.S. military strikes against Syria, the ANSWER Coalition is calling on organizations and individuals to take to the streets in opposition to what would be a destructive and criminal war by the U.S. government.

Make plans now to hold a demonstration in your city on the day of or the day after U.S. military action begins. Fill out our Event Listing form so we can help spread the word!

Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the American people are clearly opposed to U.S. intervention, the signs all point to war. In a recent Reuters poll, only 9 percent favored direct U.S. military intervention, and 89 percent opposed arming the Syrian opposition. But the tiny elite clique who really run the country are completely discounting the will of the people, making a mockery of their so-called “democracy.”

The U.S. 6th Fleet has deployed war ships to the eastern Mediterranean and is threatening to launch missile and air strikes against Syria. Not only are the White House and Pentagon openly threatening direct intervention, they are also moving to further arm the Syrian opposition. A U.S./NATO attack on Syria could well lead to a wider, regional war with grave and unpredictable consequences.

A staged provocation: a pretext for war

The pretext for attacking Syria is the allegation that the Syrian government used chemical weapons last week in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, just after a UN team had arrived in the country to investigate an earlier alleged use of chemical weapons. President Obama declared over a year ago that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a “red line,” triggering U.S. military action.

The idea that the Syrian government would launch a chemical weapons attack exactly at the moment when the UN team was in the country investigating chemical weapons defies all logic.

In a sign of their total disregard for the truth, the United States government has declared, in advance of any actual investigation, that the Syrian government is guilty of using chemical weapons. U.S. officials have stated that the United Nations weapons inspection team, which is today at the site near Damascus where hundreds of people died last week, is “too late.” In other words, the United States, along with Britain and France – the former colonizers of the region – have decided to use chemical weapons as an excuse to go to war.

We must remember the Iraq War in 2003, where “overwhelming evidence of weapons of mass destruction” was used as the pretext for a war that killed hundreds of thousands and tore Iraq apart. No such weapons were ever found.

If in fact chemical weapons were used in Syria last week, the far greater likelihood is that it was a staged provocation by the opposition to invite U.S./NATO intervention in order to save their weakening military position in the conflict. We have no reason to trust the U.S. government’s version of what happened. This is the same government that has routinely lied and deceived the American people on many issues, as was recently revealed by Edward Snowden’s leaks related to NSA spying.

U.S. foreign policy is not one of benign humanitarian concern, but one of Empire. Washington’s goal is control of the entire oil-rich and strategic Middle East region. To achieve this aim, U.S. leaders – Democrats and Republicans alike – have worked to destroy independent governments and popular movements in the region for more than six decades.

For the people of the United States, fighting against a U.S. intervention in Syria is of paramount importance to prevent the spread of war and destruction. The ANSWER Coalition is calling on all those opposed to this brutal war drive to take action against any U.S. attack on Syria! A broad coalition of organizations worked together in June and July 2013 for days of action opposing the U.S. role in Syria. We expect that the actions in the coming days and weeks will be of a similar unified character.

Plan a demonstration in your city on the day of or the day after U.S. military action begins. Fill out our Event Listing form so we can help spread the word!

NATO Out of Mali!

New Worker

Thousands of French troops are pouring into Mali to spearhead a new offensive against the Touareg rebels who control the north of country. Britain, America, Canada, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have all pledged support for the French war and British and US transport planes are now ferrying French troops and supplies across the Mediterranean to the West African country.

Muslim Brotherhoods have held anti-French demonstrations in Egypt and Algeria; the Malian government has extended the state of emergency for another three months and Japan has closed its embassy in the capital and has urged all its citizens to leave because of the deteriorating security situation in the wartorn country.

The French claim their intervention has been fully endorsed by United Nations and the African Union. But the UN head has ruled out direct UN intervention and, so far, only token African forces have joined the French operation aimed at driving the rebels, whom the imperialists claim are all Al Qaeda supporters, out of the country.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon ruled out any direct UN involvement in this new French war this week. “Directly assisting offensive military actions would also place our civilian personnel in the region in jeopardy. I take this issue very seriously,” Ban told the General Assembly on Tuesday.

And Russia’s special envoy for Africa, Mikhail Margelov, says that France’s military deployment does not correspond to what was previously agreed at the UN Security Council. While not challenging the legitimacy of the French move, the Russian government has ruled out any military support for it stressing that the Malians must be given unconditional support for fighting extremists under the aegis of the UN and the African Union.

French and Malian troops, backed by war planes and helicopter gunships, drove the rebels out of the towns of Diabaly and Douentza in central Mali this week and the rebel held towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal in the north have been repeatedly bombed.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Canada and Germany had offered vital aid for the attack on the towns. But that’s only the beginning. Le Drian says that “the goal is the total re-conquest of Mali” and many more imperialist troops are on their way to beef up the Malian military in their struggle to regain control of their northern territories.

Over 3,000 French troops are now in action in Mali, backed by around a 1,000 African troops from Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Niger and Chad. The French are hoping the African contingent will quickly rise to 6,000 to mask their presence in their former colony and give added international legitimacy to the offensive against the Touareg rebels.

In the Arab world Muslim brotherhoods are calling on their followers to support the Touareg Islamists who control two of the rebel militias that run northern Mali. In Algiers police blocked demonstrators from nearing the French embassy in a protest against the Nato intervention and their own government’s decision to allow French warplanes to cross Algeria to bomb Malian rebel positions.

In Cairo Muslim Brothers demonstrated outside the French embassy and called on their own Muslim Brotherhood- led government to break off relations with France.

While that’s not going to happen Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has become the first Arab and African leader to openly oppose the French operation. Speaking at the Arab summit on economic and social development in Saudi Arabia this week the Egyptian leader voiced his opposition to French intervention adding that “the situation must be dealt with wisely.”

“We are against the intervention in Mali because it will spread the conflict,” he said. More French reinforcements are on their way. And in France public concern is growing at the prospect of a protracted Afghan-style war in West Africa. When the social-democratic French president Francois Hollande launched “Operation Serval” on 11th January the proclaimed objective was to prop up the Malian government and defeat Islamic terrorist groups, which French imperialism claims are the dominant factor within the Touareg independence movement.

Now some doubt whether France can do it on its own and others believe that the real motive is simply French imperialism’s desire to get its greedy hands on Mali’s abandoned natural resources that include gold, uranium, gas, oil and diamonds.

“I have the impression that we have committed ourselves to reconquering the totality of an immense country. France will not be able to accomplish this task alone,” said former Gaullist leader Alain Juppé, while Left Party leader Jean- Luc Mélenchon condemned Hollande for ordering the operation without consulting parliament or his government earlier.

“There are many dark points in this matter,” Mélenchon said while a prominent member of the Greens said the operation was simply a neo-colonial manoeuvre.

And despite a French news ban, atrocity stories are coming in, including claims that Touaregs, Arabs and Fulanis are being persecuted in government- controlled areas because their tribal leaders have largely supported the revolt, as well as reports of arrests, interrogations and the torture of civilians by French and Malian soldiers in the towns the French took this week.

Obama’s Inaugural Address: Rhetoric vs. Reality

What does this new ‘liberal vision’ actually mean?

Richard Becker

President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural Address has been greeted by much of the corporate media and his supporters as a new “liberal vision,” in the words of a New York Times headline.

But while much of the president’s rhetoric was progressive-sounding and strongly delivered, there was little actual content, and most of that was decidedly unprogressive and/or dishonest.

“A decade of war is now ending,” Obama stated. In fact, U.S. military attacks and interventions are continuing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Every Tuesday, there is a gathering in the White House where the president signs-off on the assassination-by- drone-missile of targeted individuals—and anyone who has the misfortune of being near them at the time of the strike—in a number of countries, none of which is actually at war with the U.S. .

While declaring that “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” Obama boasted that “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe.” The Pentagon continues to maintain 900+ bases on every continent. The U.S. military budget is larger than all other countries in the world combined! These are, in fact, the essential elements of perpetual war and empire.

In his speech, the president referenced “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” seeking to present himself as a continuator of the historic movements for women’s, African American and LGBT equal rights. The advances of these movements have been the results of determined mass movements over decades and centuries.

Despite the reality that more immigrants have been deported during his administration than any other in history, Obama called for “bright young students and engineers” to be “enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Some passages of the speech seemed to come from a parallel universe. “We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor will liberate families from the brink of hardship.”

In the real world United States of 2013, more than 23 million people are unemployed or severely underemployed. More than 146 million—or 48 percent of the population—is classified as low-income or living in poverty, a record. Real wages have been relentlessly driven down over the past three decades. When adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage now is worth 45 percent less than it was in 1968.

Yet, the word “poverty” was only mentioned twice in the speech, once in the past tense, “when twilight years were spent in poverty …” as if millions of elderly people are not today among the poor.

The other reference to poverty: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal ….” That may sound noble, but why not put forward a plan to end the “bleakest poverty” in this, the richest country in history?

Consistent with his first term record, the president advanced no proposals for how to address growing impoverishment, hunger and homelessness. None.

A strikingly deceptive paragraph in the speech read: “We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.”

Translation: We believe everyone deserves security and dignity, so we will be cutting your health care benefits very soon to meet the demands of the big banks.

Barack Obama’s election to the presidency in 2008 was an historic occasion in the history of a country blighted by extreme racism. It broke a 220-year streak of only white, northern European-descended males, nearly all wealthy, being allowed to occupy the highest elective office.

But regardless of who is elected, the job of U.S. president comes with a job description: CEO of the imperialist empire and protector of Corporate America.

Syrian “Rebels” Increasingly Isolated

"Free Syrian Army" terrorizes Aleppo

“Free Syrian Army” terrorizes Aleppo

Imperialist drive toward intervention increases

Derek Ford

On Jan. 15, two bombs exploded at Aleppo University in Syria’s second largest city, killing at least 80 people and injuring hundreds. Among the victims were internal refugees from the conflict who had been provided shelter in university dormitories by the Syrian government.

The attack came a week after the Free Syrian Army announced that only a military solution can resolve the conflict. The announcement, made by spokesperson Abdulhamid Zakariya, was the opposition’s rejection of President Bashar al-Assad’s Jan. 6 speech, which sketched a political solution to end the bloodshed. Assad’s proposal was premised on an immediate ceasefire and included the drafting of a new constitution.

The government has enacted numerous reforms in an attempt to end the conflict, which began in March 2011. Among these reforms was the drafting of a new constitution that among other things nationalized public utilities and natural resources and related institutions and facilities, and was passed by 89 percent of the vote in Feb. 2012. Additionally, the state has reversed some of the cuts to social programs like food subsidies that provided one of the impetuses for the initial uprising.

The FSA, however, has been consistently unwilling to accept any compromise or political solution to the conflict.

Syrian opposition grows increasingly isolated

As the conflict has worsened and the reactionary character of the opposition has become unmistakable to Syrians, popular support has shifted definitively in favor of the government. This is illustrated clearly in Aleppo, which has long been considered an opposition “stronghold.” By the FSA’s own admission, 70 percent of city residents support the Assad government. (Reuters, Jan. 8) Abu Ahmed, who commands the Tawheed Brigade in the city, attributed the support to the widespread looting and other criminal acts committed by opposition fighters.

Indeed, it seems that Aleppo residents live in a perpetual state of terror, as evidenced by a note passed secretly by a couple to a foreign reporter, which read, “We used to live in peace and security until this malicious revolution reached us and the Free Syrian Army started taking bread by force.” (Reuters, Jan. 8)

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While the looting, abuses of power and other reactionary actions are unsurprisingly attributed to a few “bad apples” and unruly military units, official actions taken by the rebels in the city contradict that claim. As one example, in December 2012 the “Revolutionary Military Council” in Aleppo released a statement in which they prohibited women from driving.

The FSA is also becoming isolated in the countryside, where many of the rebel units originated. There have been reports that they have established a religious police force in the town of al-Bab that is enforcing strict religious codes and forcing people to pray.

Throughout the country, the FSA has committed war crimes such as the kidnapping, torture and execution of pro-government civilians that have been documented by Human Rights Watch and other organizations.

Calls for more intervention grow louder

In Assad’s speech this month, he called on foreign governments to cease arming and funding opposition fighters. In response, the FSA called for more intervention from NATO and its allies.

The U.S., British, Israeli, Qatari and Saudi Arabian governments have all been financing the FSA. Saudi Arabia has granted pardons to death row inmates in exchange for undergoing military training and joining the Syrian rebels, according to documents leaked from the Interior Ministry. (Examiner, Dec. 9, 2012)

Turkey, which has already invaded Syrian air space and launched strikes into the country, is in the process of obtaining and deploying Patriot surface-to-air missiles from NATO along the border. On Jan. 14, a spokesperson for NATO announced that the missiles will be operational in early February at the latest.

On Jan. 13, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister called for Arab states to “think seriously about sending forces to ensure security in Syria.”

In the face of the increased possibility of overt foreign intervention in Syria, progressives and revolutionaries in the U.S. and elsewhere must, in both word and deed, unconditionally demand “Hands off Syria!” The war in Syria, after all, is not reducible to “Assad versus the people,” nor is it an “inter-imperialist” conflict between the U.S. and Russia. The struggle in Syria is a struggle over the national sovereignty of a historically oppressed state; it is a struggle between forces fighting to defend the country’s sovereignty, including the Syrian Arab Army, and forces that are openly collaborating and allied with imperialism.

NATO Moves Into Mali

New Worker

NATO IS tightening its grip on Africa with French forces directly intervening in Mali to defend a puppet regime from rebels branded as Islamic fundamentalists, while US imperialism plans to deploy 3,500 troops across the continent to deal with the “al Qaeda” threat.

The British government has pledged “limited support” for the French intervention in its former West African colony, while the Americans have reportedly offered to deploy drones in Mali to track rebel movements for the benefit of the French air force.

French warplanes and helicopter gunships are now pounding rebel positions in Mali to pave the way for a government offensive to drive the rebels out of the north of the country, which was seized by Tuareg tribal militias last year. And over 750 French troops are fighting alongside the forces of the puppet government, which is also hoping for military assistance from neighbouring Niger and Senegal.

At the moment British imperialism’s contribution appears to be limited to a loan to France of two RAF transport planes. But in a statement to the House of Commons the “Africa Minister”, Mark Simmonds, said: “The situation in Mali is a serious concern for the UK. It would not be in our interests to allow a terrorist haven to develop in northern Mali.”

There is undoubtedly a militant Islamic rebel movement in Mali. The Tuareg militias who control two-thirds of Mali are divided between nationalists fighting for an independent Tuareg state and others belonging to Islamic groups believed to be affiliated to Al Qaeda.

The British concern is not, of course, about the Malian Islamists’ reactionary philosophy. Al Qaeda and other Muslim Brotherhoods have been funded and armed when it suits imperialism — as it did in Afghanistan during the US-led campaign to bring down the Afghan people’s republic in the 1980s and as the imperialists continue to do in Syria in their efforts to oust the Baathist-led popular front government in Syria.

In fact the British concern is simply to continue to play ball with French imperialism in Africa to ensure that reciprocal help will be forthcoming if similar Nato assistance is required to preserve British imperialist interests in southern and central Africa.

Nato no longer pretends to be a “defensive organisation.” It intervened to bring down the Libyan government and it is openly supporting the reactionary forces in Syria trying to bring down the Assad government. Its mission statement openly speaks of out-of-area activities across the whole of Europe and it has a nuclear first-strike policy.

This week the Stop the War campaign issued a statement condemning British involvement in the Malian civil war and warning that as fighting intensifies Britain will get further drawn in to an intervention that has already been backed by the US government.

The anti-war movement says:

“It is extraordinary that the government has not learnt from the terrible legacy of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The experience of the last decade and more has been that foreign wars bring nothing but suffering, destruction and instability. Stop the War condemns the intervention in Mali, and calls on the government to withdraw all support immediately.”

Communists must support this call and take it up throughout the labour movement.

Peace remains the central issue of our time. The labour and peace movement must maintain the fight to bring about the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Ireland and Afghanistan and ensure that they are never used to attack Syria. At the same time it must mobilise to stop the Government from spending more billions on the needless and useless replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.